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Cost of public education on the rise in McHenry County

Some districts in McHenry County are administering higher registration fees

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 11:57 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 12:12 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com)
Students wait outside Westfield Community School in Algonquin on Aug. 13 before the doors opened on the first day of school.

For the first time in 20 years, parents in Crystal Lake School District 47 have had to dish out a little more cash to register students, and they’re not the only ones in McHenry County.

District 47’s registration fee for first- through fifth-graders is $72, $12 more than the 2013-14 school year. Those with sixth- through eighth-graders owe $90, which is $15 more than last year.

Chief Financial Officer Kevin Werner said the increases were a way to help cover new technology-based initiatives needed to prepare students for upcoming assessments.

“To help support strategic projects aimed at increasing student achievement, small incremental increases have been planned over the next several years...,” Werner stated in an email.

This year’s inflation still leaves the fees lower than those of other districts, such as Woodstock District 200. There, parents will pay $121 to register students in full-day pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, up from last year’s $115.

District 200 CFO Risa Hanson said registration fees have risen alongside the growing cost of consumable supplies, such as books, science materials, paper, among others.

Whether increases are based on new programming or more expensive supplies, the fees in a public education system don’t stop there. Additional charges often stem from extracurricular activities, too.

Participation in any sport will cost an extra $150 in Marengo-Union Elementary District 165, which Superintendent Lea Damisch said was in line with other districts.

Joining the band will cost $75 and any club costs about $50 in District 165, however, the registration fee has been frozen at $175 for the past seven years, Damisch said.

Registration rates are decided upon at the district level, and “based on need by the schools,” Hanson said.

There’s no governing standards for how high fees can be, but they do have to be harnessed for education-related expenditures, said Illinois State Board of Education spokeswoman Megan Griffin.

“There’s no rule about the fees they charge,” Griffin said. “They may charge fees as long as they’re associated with educational programs.”

Each district also has to offer waivers to qualifying families. The details are up to each district’s discretion, but waivers are generally given to families with children in the free-and-reduced lunch program.

For District 165, that meant less revenue last year with a little more than 60 percent of students getting free-and-reduced lunch.

“Last year we brought in $74,000,” she said. “In 2012-13, we received about $110,000.”

The registration fee revenue doesn’t make a huge difference in the overall budget, Damisch added, but “when remaining in the black has become ever-increasingly more difficult,” it plays its part in offsetting material costs.

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